Renee's blog, Playground in My Mind (http://writeawayzine.blogspot.com/), had this entry back in 2005. I have posted it here because it I think it is contains information to help keep children safe and protected. I thank Renee for the find.
Child Sexual Abuse: The Hidden Epidemic
By Sherryll Kraizer, Ph.D., Coalition for Children
While abduction by a stranger is one of the most terrifying things for a parent to think about, children are actually far more vulnerable to abuse by people known to the family and community. Child abuse occurs when an adult causes, or threatens to cause, emotional, physical or sexual harm to a child. Child abuse includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Parents should know that:
1. 85 to 90% of all abuse occurs at the hands of someone known to the child, someone in a position of trust.
2. About one in every four children will be sexually abused by the age of eighteen.
3. Most sexual abuse involves no outwardly visible physical damage to the child.
4. The damage comes from the physical and emotional violation of the child, and the violation of a trusted relationship. These can be more long-lasting than physical injury.
5. Most abusers are family, friends, and neighbors, someone the child knows and trusts.
6. Parents, schools and organizations may use all of the avoidance technology at their disposal against strangers, yet experience tells us that they are almost always surprised to discover perpetrators in their midst.
7. Parents obviously don't leave their children in the care of people they believe to be perpetrators, but the facts tell us that parents must be prepared for such an event.
A Child's Best Defense
The best way to prevent abuse when the parent or care-taking adult is not present is to provide children with the skills they need to help protect themselves. The essential prevention of child abuse skills can be taught without talking about abuse. Children don't need to be told what abuse is, who the offenders are, how they operate, what they do, or why.
They don't need to be told that the people they love might hurt them. Rather, prevention is learned through positive and concrete messages that give children the skills they need to act effectively on their own behalf when they are in potentially abusive situations. The reality is that there are times when children can and must be responsible for their own well-being, such as when they are alone with a potential abuser.
At such times, they need permission to speak up. They need specific skills and techniques to stop what's being done to them. And, they must know they will be believed and supported by the adults in their lives.
The Best Overall Defense Children Have Against Abuse Is:
* A sense of their own natural abilities (instincts).
* The ability to accurately assess and handle a variety of situations.
* Knowing where and how to get help.
* Knowing they will be believed.
A Child Needs To Know:
*Your body belongs to you.
*You have a right to say who touches you and how.
*If someone touches you in a way you don't like, in a way that makes you feel funny or uncomfortable inside, or in a way that you think is wrong or your parents would think is wrong, it's okay to say "no."
*If the person doesn't stop, say, "I'm going to tell" and then tell, no matter what.
*If you're asked to keep a secret, say, "No, I'm going to tell."
*If you have a problem, keep talking about it until someone helps you.
Children learn that they can have more control over what happens to their bodies when we teach them, and when we show them through our own behavior, that their bodies do, indeed, belong to them. Children as young as two and three already know what touch they like and what touch they don't like. Touching they don't like makes them feel uneasy and may seem wrong to them.
The Safe Child Program gives children permission to speak up. It teaches them how to speak up effectively and in a way that is appropriate. Prevention of child abuse techniques must be learned not just as ideas, but as real skills. Proven classroom programs for children and follow-through by parents are the best way to learn these skills. This means practice.
Part of effective prevention education includes role-play, giving children an opportunity to see how it feels to say "no" in a difficult situation. Just as children don't learn to ride a bicycle by talking or reading about bicycling, children don't learn to prevent child abuse without opportunities to work with the techniques, to practice and feel comfortable with the skills. Role-play, practicing and parental reinforcement are the keys to teaching children to protect themselves when adults are not there to protect them.
How to Respond if a Child Tells You About Abuse
The trauma of a child reporting abuse is very real. If this happens, the first concern is to remain calm and supportive of the child. Give the child an opportunity to tell you in his or her own way what happened. Don't over-react or criticize the child in any way.
The Child Needs To Be Told:
*That you believe him/her and you're glad s/he told you.
*That s/he didn't do anything wrong.
*That you will do your best to see that s/he is not hurt again and you will make every effort to get help.
*Do not promise the child that you will do anything specific. You may not be able to keep that promise.
*Children who report sexual or physical abuse need to be examined by a doctor. Make the child a part of the process. If possible find a physician the child knows or one who is particularly experienced in abuse cases.
REMEMBER: Almost without exception children do not lie about abuse, except to deny that it happened.
REMEMBER ALSO: The trauma of abuse is long-term and not always apparent. When a child reports being abused, the process of recovery begins.
Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect
The decision to report suspected abuse is almost always difficult. Remember that 85-90% of all sexual abuse and virtually all physical and emotional abuse involve someone known to the child. This means that the offender is usually known to the community.
Interpersonal relationships and community considerations frequently bring hesitation to report. At these times, it is important to remember that the TOTAL responsibility for the offense lies with the offender.
Reporting PROTECTS the child and may protect other children from becoming or continuing to be victims of abuse. A person who reports suspected abuse is not responsible for ruining the offender's life. The person who has the courage and takes the responsibility to report is saving a child as well as future victims.
ANYONE may report a suspected case of child abuse or child maltreatment. It is important to know that the law does not require certainty before reporting and that you have no responsibility to investigate or to try to gather more information yourself. Any suspected case should be reported.
Reporting suspected abuse or maltreatment does not make a person legally liable, however there may be penalties for failure to report. The law protects any person, official, or institution that makes a report in good faith (meaning an honest belief that a child is being abused) by providing immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise result from such actions.
While reporting child abuse can be difficult, all of us have an obligation to act on behalf of all children. If we do not act, who will?
The National toll-free number to report suspected abuse is 1-800-4ACHILD at http://www.childhelpusa.org/ THE COALITION FOR CHILDREN is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1983, which is committed to creating and providing positive and effective prevention programs for children and families.
The Coalition is not a group; rather it acts as a catalyst, bringing together individuals and organizations for specific projects and community action. To learn more, please visit: http://www.safechild.org/.